One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"
"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
Shema Yisrael (Hear, O Israel) are the first words of a section of the Torah that is a centerpiece of the morning and evening Jewish prayer service. You can imagine Joseph teaching his son this prayer early in his young life. It is a prayer that Jesus, a devout Jew, may have recited 20,000 times in his life… probably more.
In this prayer, the word LOVE is mentioned once. GOD twice. And the word LORD three times. One word, however, is repeated four times in this two sentence prayer. The word, perhaps, that ensures this is a never-ending journey and not something we can simply cross off our to-do list. A life-long mission known as ALL.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
The conversation cited above between Jesus and the teacher of the law took place two days after Jesus arrived triumphantly in Jerusalem. Two days before his last supper. And I wonder today, whether Jesus – who lived a perfect life – had yet to complete his life-long journey himself. While the Gospel records how he had loved the Lord, his Father, with his heart, soul, mind and strength over his three year ministry, something was still missing. ALL.
So let’s look at what Jesus does next.
He loved the Lord with ALL his heart.
At dinner, Jesus announced that one among his inner circle would betray him. As heartbreaking as that must have been, he then added that his best friend, his right hand man, would disown him. Jesus responds by giving thanks and praise to God.
He lover the Lord with ALL his soul.
In the Garden called Gethsemane, Jesus fell to the ground in prayer, his soul overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Devastated, he closed his conversation with God with four words that sealed his fate: thy will be done.
He loved the Lord with ALL his mind.
Standing before Pilate, Jesus heard the false testimony against him. Accusations and contradictions. With any outburst, perhaps he could have saved his life. To the amazement of all, he remained true to God and made no reply—not even to a single charge.
He loved the Lord with ALL his strength.
Already exhausted in the garden, Jesus would not sleep. He would subject himself to beatings, forty lashes and a crown of thorns. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull to be crucified.
Every morning and every evening for most of his 33 years on earth, Jesus prayed the Shema. Twenty-thousand times he recited 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
And here, at the peak of Golgatha, his journey came to a close. He had absolutely nothing left to give God. He had given it all.
A destination achieved, a life-ling prayer fulfilled, he looked up to heaven. Fittingly, he final words convey so much. “It is finished.”
Are you ready to follow Jesus’ example? Are you ready to give your all?